Are Laser Hair Removal Devices Safe and Effective?

Learn about safety & effectiveness of laser devices for removing unwanted body & facial hairs & how Mayo Clinic helps.

Are Laser Hair Removal Devices Safe and Effective?

If you have the right hair and skin tones, laser hair removal devices are generally safe to try, according to Dr. But it's important to use them correctly. When doing the calculations, keep in mind that home devices may have a limited battery charge or contain light cartridges that will need to be replaced, Dr. And no matter how often you use them, you may never achieve total hair loss.During laser hair removal, a laser emits a light that is absorbed by the pigment (melanin) in the hair.

Light energy is converted to heat, which damages the tube-like sacs inside the skin (hair follicles) that produce hairs. This damage inhibits or delays future hair growth. Although laser hair removal effectively delays hair growth for extended periods, it usually doesn't result in permanent hair removal. Several laser hair removal treatments are needed for initial hair removal, and maintenance treatments may also be needed. Laser hair removal is most effective for people who have fair skin and dark hair, but it can be successfully used on all skin types.

Laser hair removal is used to reduce unwanted hair. Common treatment sites include legs, armpits, upper lip, chin, and bikini line. However, it is possible to treat unwanted hair in almost any area except the eyelid or the surrounding area. Skin with tattoos should not be treated either. Hair color and skin type influence the success of laser hair removal. The basic principle is that the hair pigment, but not the skin pigment, must absorb light.

The laser should damage only the hair follicle and avoid damaging the skin. Therefore, a contrast between hair color and skin, dark hair and fair skin results in the best results. Rarely, laser hair removal can cause blistering, crusting, scarring, or other changes in skin texture. Other rare side effects include graying of treated hair or excessive hair growth around treated areas, especially on darker skin. Laser hair removal is not recommended for eyelids, eyebrows, or surrounding areas due to the possibility of serious eye damage.

If you're interested in laser hair removal, choose a doctor who is certified in a specialty such as dermatology or cosmetic surgery and who has experience in laser hair removal for your skin type. If a physician assistant or licensed nurse is going to perform the procedure, make sure a doctor supervises and is available onsite during treatments. Beware of spas, beauty salons, or other facilities that allow non-medical staff to perform laser hair removal. At the office, discuss a treatment plan and related costs. Laser hair removal is often an out-of-pocket expense. Laser hair removal generally requires two to six treatments.

The interval between treatments will vary by location. In areas where hair grows rapidly such as the upper lip treatment can be repeated in four to eight weeks. In areas of slow hair growth such as the back treatment can be done every 12 to 16 weeks. For each treatment you will wear special glasses to protect your eyes from the laser beam. If necessary an assistant could re-shave the site.

The doctor may apply a topical anesthetic to the skin to reduce any discomfort during treatment. The doctor will press a portable laser instrument against the skin. Depending on the type of laser a cooling device at the tip of the instrument or a cold gel may be used to protect the skin and reduce the risk of side effects. When the doctor activates the laser the laser beam will pass through the skin to the hair follicles. Intense heat from the laser beam damages hair follicles inhibiting hair growth. You may experience discomfort such as a hot prick and you may feel a cold sensation from the cooling device or gel.

You may notice redness and swelling for the first few hours after laser hair removal. To reduce any discomfort apply ice to the treated area. If you have a skin reaction immediately after laser hair removal your doctor may apply a steroid cream to the affected area. After laser hair removal and between scheduled treatments avoid sunlight and don't use a tanning bed for six weeks or as directed by your doctor. Use a broad-spectrum SPF30 sunscreen every day. The hairs don't fall out immediately but it will fall out over a period of days to weeks. This may look like continuous hair growth.

Repeated treatments are often necessary because hair growth and loss occur naturally in one cycle and laser treatment works best with hair follicles in the regrowth stage. Results vary significantly and are difficult to predict. Most people experience hair removal that lasts several months and can last for years but laser hair removal does not guarantee permanent hair removal. When hair grows back it tends to be thinner and lighter in color. You may need maintenance laser treatments to reduce hair for a long time. Lasers are available that can be used at home for hair removal.

These devices can cause modest hair reduction but there are no large studies that compare their effectiveness compared to laser treatments performed in a doctor's office. The Food and Drug Administration considers these home laser devices to be cosmetic not medical meaning they don't receive the same level of scrutiny as other medical devices. At present there have been no large long-term studies on their safety and effectiveness so if you decide to use one follow instructions that come with it closely to help reduce risk of injury especially eye injury. In most cases laser hair removal is safe while process itself can be awkward if you stick regularly scheduled sessions you'll get better longer lasting results but if you have darker....

Sandra Prybylski
Sandra Prybylski

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